Posted on Feb 16, 2021, 5 p.m.
If recent global events have done anything, they have highlighted the importance of maintaining a healthy and strong immune system. To that end, according to a survey conducted by the Council For Responsible Nutrition, 77% of American consumers take supplements. According to Fortune Business Insights, the sale of immune health supplements is projected to grow from $16 billion in 2019 to hit $29 billion by 2027.
Another study by Label Insight revealed that 94% of American consumers believe that it is important that all brands are transparent about what goes into the food and how it is made. But according to a review of supplement brands that are designed to boost immunity conducted by AminoFacts, only one-third of consumers know how amino acids supplement products are sourced.
Amino acids are organic compounds that combine to form proteins, our bodies use these to make all proteins within the body, and there are 3 groups- essential, nonessential, and conditional amino acids. We can get essential amino acids from our diet as they are not made in the body, and there are 9 essential amino acids- valine, threonine, tryptophan, methionine, phenylalanine, histidine, isoleucine, lysine, and leucine. Supplements are made by extracting compounds from plants, animals, or they are manufactured synthetically. Animal sources can include meat and meat byproducts while plant-based sources can include sugarcane, beets, peas, and corn.
Our immune system is a complex network of cells and proteins that defend the body, and it keeps a lifelong record of everything it encounters so that it can recognize and destroy foreign pathogens if they re-invade the body. Most experts agree that nutrition plays an important role in immune health. Diets that are rich in protein help to ensure that the body can maintain levels of amino acids, diets lacking in specific amino acids can lead to lower white blood cell counts and inhibit the body’s ability to combat disease and infection.
According to aminofacts, certain amino acids can help to strengthen key functions of the immune system which includes: L-Arginine, L-Citrulline, Glutathione, L-Cysteine, N-Acetyl Cysteine, Cystine, Histidine, L-Glutamine, and L-Lysine:
- L-Arginine and L-Citrulline help activate the body’s white blood cells, which detect, ingest and eliminate harmful foreign bodies including viruses.
- Glutathione, L-Cysteine, N-Acetyl Cysteine (aka NAC), and Cystine are antioxidants that help neutralize free radicals, which are unstable atoms that can damage cells, causing illness, aging, and a host of diseases.
- Histidine helps reduce overactive allergic and inflammatory reactions to germs and other bacteria, which can cause the immune system to overreact and destroy healthy tissue and lead to autoimmune disease.
- L-Glutamine is used when one is sick or injured, as it helps kill invading pathogens by boosting white cell production in key organs such as the liver. It is also essential to gut health, which has an impact on the immune system.
- L-Lysine works to relieve stress in the body to regulate the immune response.
The demand for supplements is high and increasing as consumers are becoming more conscious about their benefits and sourcing of supplements. Labels on food and beverages can be difficult to navigate and supplements are no exception to this as some companies make claims that are true for all products and others are less than transparent about where their products are sourced from and how they are made.
Amino acids, for example, sourced from plants or animals are molecularly identical and equally effective, but some companies do not list the sourcing for their products, this can have ethical implications for those choosing to live an animal product-free lifestyle and those with plant-based preferences.
“Supplements can be a great way to make sure you are getting the amino acids you need for optimal immunity health,” said AminoFacts Board Member, Clare Hasler-Lewis, Ph.D., and co-founder and CEO of natural supplements company OlivinoLife, Inc. “But not all supplements are created the same. Many consumers may not be aware that their supplements are made with materials derived from animal parts; and many have fillers and other additives. This begs the question: what are consumers supposed to think?”
Most people don’t have the time nor know how to conduct research into supplements, to help AminoFacts reviewed products that are suggested to be blended immunity solutions that contain one or more amino acids along with immune-boosting vitamins and other natural products as well as individual amino acids supplements that are suggested to help maintain immune health. For this review manufacturers were conducted to review product labels to determine which brands are among the most planet-friendly plant-based options.
Among the brands reviewed at aminofacts.org are:
Immunity Blends Containing Amino Acids
Pure Nature Immunity Complex
ImmuneMD Comprehensive Immune Support
Carlson Glutathione Booster
Amino Acid Supplements
Pure Encapsulations L-Lysine
Source Naturals L-Arginine L-Citrulline Complex
Swanson Free-form Lysine
When considering any supplement you should know what you are putting into your body, and this begins with reading the labels. Aminofacts suggests that you look for:
- The sources for the amino acids – this could be animal parts (skin, hair, feathers, hooves and the like), or plants, like corn and sugar.
- Other ingredients – includes non-nutrient animal-sourced ingredients such as gelatin (used to make capsules), as well as magnesium stearate and caprylic acid which can be used as lubricants on the coatings.
- Sourcing practices – many brands import powdered amino acids from outside of the US, filling and packing them in the US. This can contribute to a lack of transparency around plant vs animal and the country of origin for ingredients, as well as manufacturing practices and compliance with animal welfare standards.
- Lab testing – ingredients are tested for traces of materials such as chemicals and pesticides. This is especially important for products sourced outside of the US.
“The supplement market is a bit behind the food industry in terms of providing consumers with specific and consistent information about what they’re putting into their bodies,” said David Madsen, Ph.D., and AminoFacts Board member. “It is important for consumers to know what questions to ask, and how to decipher labels to find answers.”
As with anything you read on the internet, this article should not be construed as medical advice; please talk to your doctor or primary care provider before making any changes to your wellness routine.
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